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Elisabeth Reads Poetry

Elisabeth is two and reads
a book of poetry off my shelf,
opens with Yah yah sumpin to eat.
I try to read my own book
but she sings Dibbah dah ze Rosie.
She's changed her clothes
six times today
from blue dress to swimsuit
to Tom's size 7 green jeans.
That was all before 10:00.
She's been naked ever since,
now reciting A B D Bs,
while I read over her shoulder
to check for genius,
like my friend who found
her two-year-old breaking
the alphabet code,
reading real words
as if he'd climbed
into the high cupboards,
eating sugar and poison
willy nilly—a horrifying miracle.
But no. Atsa batta sorry,
Elisabeth intones
and tosses the book in favor
of a red crayon, then
on to her dolly's baby blanket,
folding it like soft origami.
I thumb her dropped book of poems.
I can't help it, she's a genius
of prolonged babyhood,
of its light, its wild uncoded rhythms,
playing late into the open afternoon.

Printed in the Fall/Winter 2000 issue of CLR

Kathleen Flenniken

Kathleen Flenniken lives in Seattle with her husband and three children. Her poems have appeared in CALYX, Poet Lore, Talking River Review and are forthcoming in Southern Poetry Revew and Cider Press Review.

You can find Kathleen Flenniken on the web at:
—  Crab Creek Review
—  Words' Worth Poetry Readings
—  Seattle Poetry Festival
—  Poetry on the Buses (1998)
—  Poetry on the Buses (1999)
—  Poetry on the Buses (2000)

Published by Clackamas Literary Review, in print and on the web at,, and
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